Ford COO Nick Scheele has told The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) that 100 yen to the US dollar is a “more appropriate” exchange level.

Speaking to a small group of journalists including the WSJ, Scheele argued that the currently cheap yen ($US1 = 133.70 yen at publishing time today) was giving Japanese car makers an unfair competitive advantage by enabling them to put windfall profits and other resources into new products, boost manufacturing capacity, or improve research and production facilities.

That, Scheele told the WSJ, was making it hard for Detroit’s Big Three to compete effectively, he said.

The WSJ said Scheele’s comments came soon after the top executives of the three Detroit vehicle makers sent a letter to The White House earlier this month, asking President George W. Bush to appeal to the Japanese government to stop weakening the yen to help Japanese exports and industries.

The comments appear to have been timed to coincide with President Bush’s 72-hour stay in Japan earlier this week during which he several times expressed confidence in the economic reforms of Prime minister Junichiro Koizumi.